The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Imagine waking up after a party to discover that all your friends are dead—except your jerky ex-boyfriend. Tana can’t believe that somehow a pack of illegal vampires not only wiped out most of her social circle, but that they then left her sleazy ex-boyfriend Aiden tied to a bed as snack for one of their own named Gavriel. Tana ends up escaping the awakening vampire hoard with both Aiden and the weakened vampire Gavriel, but in the process is scraped by an errant vamp fang. Worried that she and bitten Aiden are now Cold (a state of blood-hungry limbo between humanity and full on vampirism) Tana has no choice but to drive them all to the nearest Coldtown–walled cities that legally contain vampires and the humans who feed them. There she becomes drawn into a dark plot to destroy one of the most powerful vampires of all time, while becoming dangerously attracted to the moody, broody, and quite possibly insane Gavriel. This complex, richly characterized horror show is no Twilight, people. The near future setting is a chillingly real amalgamation of high Victorian camp and social media mania where I could see the imaginary Coldtowns all too clearly. Holly Black takes the tired blood sucker genre and pumps it up to a new level with atmospheric writing like the following platelet passage that, well, if you’ll allow me, makes your blood sing. “The scent of it was iron and basements and losing baby teeth so her big-girl teeth could come in. It was skinned knees and Gavriel’s mouth on hers. It was smeared walls and staring eyes.” You’ll want to make this one your first back to school read when it comes to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you!

Firecracker by David Iserson

“If nothing changed, I wouldn’t be writing this down because this is a book about the time when everything changed. And isn’t that what every book is about? No, seriously, isn’t it? I don’t know. I don’t read books.” Astrid Krieger may not read books, but that’s not going to stop her from writing one in which she tells her side of the story–about how it all went wrong. How her life of power and fear-mongering at her fancy boarding school was going great…until she was expelled for cheating. Until she had to move back home and live in her dad’s rocket ship proto-type in the backyard. Until her parents made her go to (ugh) public school. Now Astrid’s on a mission to discover who fingered her for cheating (which she freely admits to doing, but that’s not the point, is it?) and get her bad ass self back into private school. There’s only one problem, and his name is Dean Rein. The Dean of Students at Bristol Academy thinks Astrid needs to learn to help someone other than herself. So he makes a deal with her that if she can do three good, no GREAT deeds, he’ll consider letting her back in. Being kind to others isn’t something that comes naturally to Astrid, but with the help of new boy Noah and the memory of her little brother Fritz (the last person she really loved) she’ll try. But probably not too hard. While this sardonic, subversive novel was occasionally too clever by half and I didn’t quite believe Astrid’s teenage voice (which often sounded more like cynical, thirty-five-year old, college-educated black jack dealer–which, don’t get me wrong, is still funny, just not as realistic) Astrid’s misanthropic observations about life and relationships did give me a case of the knowing chuckles.

On friendship: “Accomplices are like friends, only they don’t care about you…No one is ever trying to take your friends away, so that’s how you know they’re less important.”

On her mother: “Vivi spends four weeks every year going “skiing,” and she returns at least four years younger. If she is not getting plastic surgery, she is surely a vampire.”

On public school fashion: “I had never owned a pair of jeans, and I didn’t plan on it. I am not a cowboy, a farmer or a 1950’s greaser. I just really don’t get it.”

On birthday parties: “I’d never been invited to a birthday party before, at least never to one that didn’t end with a Brunei prince shooting an endangered condor with a gold revolver off the side of a 450-foot-yacht.”

A perfect book for those times when you feel like you’d like to give the world a wedgie. Or when you feel like the world has given YOU a wedgie.

Proxy by Alex London

In the future, the superrich are able to buy their way out of punishment by sponsoring a “proxy,” a impoverished individual who, in exchange for education and basic medical care, agrees to face the consequences of his or her rich patron’s actions. If your patron is a law-abiding citizen, your punishments are few and far between. Unfortunately for Syd, his bad boy patron Knox is always in trouble. Syd has been tasered, beat, worked nearly to death and placed in solitary confinement more times than he can count. But now Knox has committed the ultimate crime. While joyriding in his father’s fancy car, Knox got in an accident and his passenger, a girl named Marie, died. And Syd will have to pay the price: seventeen years in a forced labor camp that few have ever left other than in a body bag. But Syd is a wily “swamprat,” a scavenger child who grew up in the dumps of the Valve. He’s not taking Knox’s knocks this time. Instead, he plans to escape the system or die trying—even if it means taking his patron down with him. But what Syd doesn’t know is that he carries a secret weapon that could change everything… and he’s just unintentionally passed it to Knox. Whew! I dare you to try and put this novel down before turning the last page (and let me tell you, that LAST page is a doozy!) and I guarantee you will find it darn near impossible. Not only is this sci-fi suspense thriller highly entertaining, it is also chock-full of thought provoking ideas about socio-economic class, race, environmental concerns and morality development. That’s a lot to pack in between car chases, hovercraft explosions, escaped zoo animals and the end of the world as we know it, but somehow London manages it with ease. Want to start your summer off right? Nab this book when it comes to a library, bookstore or e-reader near you, then follow it up with this one.